If you sometimes think that you live in a world that’s filled with complainers, you’re not imagining things. Travis Brandberry, co-author of the book “Emotional Intelligence 2.0,” says that on average, “most people complain once a minute during a typical conversation.” For whiners, it feels good to complain. Too bad these people don’t realise that complaining isn’t good for one’s health or one’s mood.
When people complain, says Brandberry, the brain has to work harder to function. For perpetual complainers, that means brain neurons branch out to help the brain deal with information flow, and the brain’s architecture has the potential to re-wire itself. As a result, complaining can become default behaviour that has the potential to shrink the hippocampus, according to researchers at Stanford University.
Why bring up this topic when your interest is in learning about how daunting the complaint situation has become between Leeds county council, consumers and property owners? Because things have reached a boiling point that’s been simmering since 2010. To address this situation, a coalition of Leeds councillors are coming together to improve things. It could take a little time to do that, but the future has begun to look brighter since this situation has become a priority for all concerned.
Is history to blame?
There’s an exceedingly good chance that landlord/tenant disputes have been around since the Romans settled the U.K. centuries ago. In fact, hostile takeovers sparked all manner of rebellions, likely triggered by power-hungry settlers displaced by waves of marauders that included Vikings, Normans and Renaissance interlopers. This strife helped shaped Yorkshire and turned Leeds from a sleepy hamlet to a city that named its first mayor in 1661.
People in search of community that offered both meaningful work and housing, in which workers could raise their families, flocked to area textile mills. These newcomers also helped establish a complex web of cottage industries to support manufacturers and workshops that turned Leeds into a crowded, thriving metropolis.
Described in 1724 by Daniel Defoe as “one of the largest and most flourishing towns in the country,” Leeds continued to expand throughout the Victorian age and with this Herculean amount of growth, housing and landlord-initiated exploitation set the stage for a 21st Century version of class warfare that came to mark the city’s property market. It was a situation rife with tension and primed for failure.
Are Leeds private landlords inciting civil war?
According to the “Yorkshire Evening Post,” there have been thousands of complaints registered with Leeds private landlords since 2012. These complaints include reports of poor housing conditions that made some digs unfit for living, but though tenants registered their discontent repeatedly by reporting myriad grievances, they ran into virtual stone walls as they came to feel even more powerless.
Further, tenants threatened with illegal eviction by landlords turned the city into a tinderbox of unrest that has resulted in the filing of 7,000+ complaints over the past six years, say Post reporters who used a freedom of information request to extract specifics about this situation. They learned that “Leeds City Council received more than 100 complaints per month” since 2012, an impressive number by any standard.
Attempts at reconciliation
In light of the amount of damage done to both landlords’ and tenants’ minds, bodies and spirits since this undeclared Leeds revolution began, one would think that all parties would seek ways to declare a state of détente, but upon thorough examination, it appears tenants are receiving short shrift in terms of resolution: the city council has only arbitrated 23 prosecutions against landlords, 10 of which were filed during the 2017/18 leasing season, thus heightening the state of tension that already existed.
Of late, there have been conciliatory actions on behalf of the city’s movers and shakers as industries, charities and politicians began to come together in an effort to find middle ground, lest the war continue longer. At stake? Leeds reputation. No city wants to be identified as the community with the potential to embroil a new resident in a perpetual battle with one’s landlord.
Among issues addressed and culled from a roster of complaints made by tenants are general disrepair, gas safety and electric problems, fire safety and dampness that can lead to the development of health-threatening mould and mildew. It only takes one of these issues to disqualify an apartment as a healthy place to live. Imagine living with more than one and you can understand why intervention isn’t just necessary, but critical.
More than just words
It’s one thing for principles of a city government to call meetings of Leeds community leaders to effect change; it’s another to craft ordinances and regulations that add teeth to the process of ameliorating disputes. With a goal of making homes more habitable and safer for those leasing within city boundaries, a Leeds Rental Standard agreement was drafted to serve “the second largest tenure in the city,” says the Post.
With the passage of the Standard, landlords are given opportunities to participate in an accreditation scheme that literally identifies and evaluates both good landlords and tenants. Such guidelines add a measure of security to all transactions between landlords and tenants, thus poor landlords eager to exploit renters by insisting on on-time payments while refusing to act on complaints, will be identified and called to task about neglect issues.
Will these measures be enough?
When asked about one of the biggest issues confronting tenants, City Council’s Conservative group member Barry Anderson identifies “fear of retribution” as the reason the council has received so few complaints over time. Anderson admits that the council needs to do more to “encourage confidential complaints. We owe all tenants in this city, irrespective of their tenure, a minimum level of acceptable quality of life.”
“How many tenants are aware that they can complain when their landlord is behaving badly?” Anderson asks, adding that there’s now a website tenants can use to make a complaint and that URL is being widely publicised: www.unipol.org.uk/the-code/how-to-complain. This addition to the City Council’s growing resource list could turn the tide and alleviate six years-worth of pent up frustration. Who knows; a peace treaty may even result down the road!
Landlords can turn to Priestley’s
When Priestley’s was established as a resource for private landlords, our goal was to go the extra mile for our clients, so they don’t become casualties in undeclared lessor-lessee wars. When we opened our doors in 2010, our singular mission was providing “unparalleled service in both the West Yorkshire student and professional property sectors.” We pride ourselves on 24/7 services, thus property owners can focus on what they do best: enjoy a healthy income from their investments.
One of our most oft-cited philosophies is: “Letting is a two-way street.” With this acknowledgement in mind, we have intentionally established branches in Leeds and Bradford so we can properly handle the marketing and management of a wide variety of properties throughout the city. We pride ourselves on professionalism and efficiencies that serve both private landlords and their tenants.
It’s all about occupancy rates and quality lifestyles
At Priestley’s, we don’t just worry about client satisfaction and tenant placement: we strive to be known as the company willing to go the extra mile and our property occupation rates prove the power of that commitment.
Toward that end, we are as concerned about helping the people with whom we come into contact as we are about their mental and physical health—the reason we began this article by talking about the negative stressors that led to the previous six years of discontent that has plagued the Leeds property market since 2010. What can we do to ease your mind? It’s a question we do not take lightly, because if you’re happy, so are we.
Establishing relationships that last decades rather than years is a commitment we take seriously, and while we can’t do a thing about contentious relationships arising from those Viking and Normal conquests, we can do plenty about your rental property in Leeds today. If you seek representation from a firm that respects the past as much as the future, isn’t it time you discovered the Priestley’s difference?